Immediately after the “like Dad used to” episode, Burns went off nuts again (the implication was that he’d been given leave time in Seoul) and the other character heard about his antics indirectly, which included diving into a hot-tub occupied by a General and a blonde woman who Burns mistook for Margaret but was actually the General’s, ahem, secretary. The final upshot is that Burns is promoted and rotated back to the states, for seemingly no other reason than to piss off Pierce and Hunnicut, and make some petty comedic point about the army beaurocracy. Larry Linville doesn’t appear in this or any later episode and David Ogden Stiers was waiting in the wings to replace him.
Frank Burns is actually the main reason I dislike MASH*. Sure he was a dork, but the attitudes of the other characters were bullying and unnecessarily cruel. It’s even worse in the movie when Burns (played in the film by Robert Duvall) is openly ridiculed for his bedside praying. For praying. I’m an atheist, but I’d consider ridiculing the simple act of prayer to be one of the lowest-class asshole things one can do. As a result, I lost all sympathy for the Pierce character, as I would in any movie when the “too cool for school” character acts mean to another character and is somehow expected to inspire giggling awe as a result.
I recall one episode in which Burns starts playing pranks back on Pierce, and doing a charming job, but the big episode punchline was Pierce’s final revenge, which ruined the whole thing.
In the pilot episode, Burns was more reserved, with far fewer traces of the finicky, cowardly personality that would later develop. After one of Pierce’s disrespcetful moments, Burns made some throat-clearing gesture or whatnot in a pefectly reasonable attempt to prompt the Colonel, Henry Blake, to discipline Pierce. In that episode, and that episode only, Blake tells Pierce “[Burns] is a good surgeon and we need him.” All later episodes would present Burns as an incompetent quack, which flatly contradicted other moments when they spoke of the 4077th survival rate at 90%+. I don’t see how they could possibly maintain that if one-fourth of their surgical staff was such a contemptible bumbler.
It was the nature of the early seasons to be somewhat juvenile, and some episodes seem little more than medical versions of Animal House. Only later on did it become more maudlin and serious, as Larry Linville left (as well as other married characters who were carrying on affairs) and Alan Alda took greater creative control. Pierce would still sleep around, as he had in the early seaons, but now he was all sensitive about it.
At least when Burns was replaced by Winchester, the foil character could fight back, and there was no question of the foil’s surgical abilities.